Not that I want to call them miracles … but I am watchful of inexplicable events that happen around me. And I’m just wondering out loud if anyone else watches for, sees them, and thinks on them, too. Some are good. Some are scary good. Like the day we were going to our place in Mexico, an eight hour drive from our home.
Pulling our travel trailer for the long drive down, my husband and I came up with an idea we thought was just plain smart. We sent our young college aged friend, Lisa, and our two children, Greg, 5, and Chelsea, not quite 2, to ride in the trailer so the kids could take a nap. We had a CB radio so we could talk to one another in the event they needed anything. Everything was, as they say, “All good.”
About an hour later, knowing the children were fast asleep, a car passed us with the driver and the passengers frantically waving their arms, trying to get our attention, while pointing to our trailer and yelling, “Stop! Stop! You’ve got a problem!!!” As this was happening Lisa’s dead calm voice came on the CB saying, “Boss, would you pull over please?” (serious emphasis on “please”).
We pulled over as quickly as we could. Thinking we must have a flat tire to fix, we walked back to the rig. When we opened the door to the trailer we found Lisa standing by the door. Our son was tucked in as close to her side as possible and our daughter in her arms. She was crying and shaking and clinging to our baby for dear life. Greg had a wide-eyed, mildly panicked look on his face. Chelsea on the other hand, was all smiles. It was an odd scenario to say the least.
Turns out this could have been the worse day of our life.
When we put our Baby Girl down for her nap, we didn’t give it a second thought that there was a window with an emergency exit handle in her bed. There was zero clearance between the mattress and the window. In other words, the mattress ended where the window began. No lip. No nothing. (A testament to the fact that sometimes we humans don’t think things through.) And, while hurtling down the road, with nothing to keep her from falling out the window, our Baby Girl pulled the bright red handle that begged to be pulled and … Boom! … the wind caught the window and ripped it off the trailer.
It was at this point we grew weak in the knees. The sobering, dawning realization of why those people were so frantic. The metal. The broken glass. The little hand waving out the window. Lisa a shaking mass of sheer panic and fear. Life in the balance. Explicable.
But I’m not writing today about the explicable stuff of life … I’m writing about the inexplicable.
Inexplicably our Baby Girl didn’t get pulled out through the window by centrifugal force and thrown on a busy highway. A tragedy of epic proportions. A horrible accident that would have destroyed all our lives. One inexplicably terrible idea led to one inexplicably impossible miracle.
As I look back on it today it’s obvious to me there’s a REASON people, especially babies, should never, under any circumstance ride in travel trailers being pulled down the highway. And, obviously, there is a God. It was His hand that covered the window. His hand that protected our baby. His hand that saved our lives.
Our Baby Girl celebrates her 30th birthday this coming Sunday. With the exception of our learning a very powerful lesson in child safety, very little has changed since that miraculous day. We’re happy to say she never held it against us. She continues to thrill us when she flashes that smile. And we thank our God that she inexplicably chose us to be her parents.
Happy birthday, Chelsea Baby.
We explicitly love you. More.
As most of you know, I’m pretty traditional in that I love ‘traditions’ like Christmas and such; I’m pretty liberal on issues like gay marriage; I’ve been very conservative most of my life (Ronald Reagan is my favorite president); as I grow older, I’m more libertarian and I’m starting not to give a tinker’s damn about any of those fools on the Hill. But one thing I’ve never been is a child of the ’60’s. My husband said he fell in love with me because I was born 25 (in other words, “old”). That said, I’m going through one of the most exciting phases in my life. At last, I’m getting connected with my inner-peacenik-tree-hugging-freeze-dried-hippie-self. The journey, in great part, is being aided by my remarkable daughter, Chelsea.
My child, born in 1984, is really an amazing woman. She has been an interesting study to me in that we’re so not alike. She has always walked to a different drummer. Always a marvelous girl, with an even, stable, unruffled temperament, she’s challenged many of my traditional beliefs about how a daughter of mine should look, behave and think.
Chelsea has never had an ounce of interest in being a fashionista or a girly-girl. Never interested in make-up or what other people thought of her. She refused to believe that the way she looked had anything to do with the content of her character. With no particular style but her own, my daughter simply refuses to conform.
One of my favorite stories about Chelsea’s commitment to walk to her own drummer is of one of her encounters with a favorite teacher at her all girls college preparatory. With strict codes of conduct, it was frowned upon to leave class to do something as mundane as go to the restroom. Chelsea knew the rules, but on this particular urgent occasion, she asked, “Mr. C, I know we’re not allowed to go the restroom except between classes, but I really, really, really need to go. Please, may I be excused?”
Mr. C, breathing a sigh of exasperation said, “Yes, Chelsea, you may go, but ONLY if you’ll brush that tangled mess of hair on top of your head.”
Chelsea, who loved not wasting time standing in front of a mirror in order to have a good hair day, happily agreed to his request, only to come back into the classroom with her hair brushed straight UP and OUT (as if she’d put her finger in a light socket!).
When my sweet daughter returned to class, wilder hair and all, Mr. C’s eyes flew open and before a word could come out, Chelsea said, “I did exactly what you told me to do, Mr. C. I brushed my hair!”
to which Mr. C simply smiled. And … as evidenced by the twinkling of his eyes, and the ‘A’ she earned in his class … Mr. Seaquist showed his approval for my daughter’s obvious delight in CHALLENGING her favorite teacher to NOT tell her how she should look (as if how we look has anything at all to do with how we show up in the world, right?!).
When I was 19, my life was transformed by a book, The Prophet, by Kahlil Gibran. It shaped my opinion on most of the important issues of my life. Love, marriage, children and much more. To the best of my ability, I worked to live the truth found therein. Here is Gibran’s masterpiece on children:
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.
I did my best to be a stable bow for my daughter. I am grateful she finds delight in holding my hand and wanting me to go forward with her on her journey.
My daughter has taught me to be kinder to myself and mother nature. She’s inspired me to be more frugal. To get good at yoga. To eat less. To be quiet more. To eat whole food. To read labels. To live a good life and to leave the tiniest footprint on the earth that I possibly can. To leave the world better than I found it. To love children. To be kind to the elderly. To be respectful. To be strong. She’s as old as the earth, and yet as cool as a child of the ’60’s. A bit of beatnik. A poet. A writer. A thinker. A tree-hugging-free-spirit. An artist. One of the most unique and interesting women I’ve ever known. When I grow up, I want to be just like her.
Thank you, God, for keeping her out of harms way this week. Had she been seriously injured or killed in that traffic accident, the grief would have most certainly killed her father. And, please, for my sake and especially for the sake of her father, watch over her all the days of our lives. She is our arrow that flies. She is our gladness.
Chelsea and Luke. Hiking the Canyon.
My oh my … it’s been a terribly long time since I stopped by to visit my blog. It’s not that I’ve stopped writing, it’s that I’ve been writing to an inner circle of friends and business partners about stuff that has to do with building a successful life and business. But always, in the back of my mind, was this little nagging voice that said, “Cindy, you started that blog with a promise to share the stuff that goes on inside your head, the stuff that might very well make a difference in how someone’s life turns out … now gosh darn it … keep your promises, or go home!” So, here I am again, with hat in hand hoping you’ll let me back in your hearts to share a story or two. The following is one of my life lessons. It might very well be something I wrote about previously, but any worthwhile lesson is worth repeating. It was prompted by a video I hope you’ll take five minutes to watch. Let’s get started.
When I was falling in love with my husband, and long before I’d ever kissed him, I was deeply attracted to his quiet strength and wisdom. I was young. He, 18 years my senior. I worked for a manufacturing company, he for one of our suppliers. I didn’t see him every day, but I must admit I’d go to work hoping I’d get a glimpse of him. His Rock of Gibraltar personality and his down home common sense just had a way of making my life better. Decades later nothing’s changed.
One of my favorite stories about him goes all the way back to 1978, when I was just 21. It’s the story of how he stopped me dead in my tracks and instantly kept me from living my life as a whiner, moaner and complainer. On one of those days when he called on my company, he quickly walked by my cubicle and without stopping said, “How are you today, Cindy?” Without a moment’s hesitation, I said, “I feel horrible! Just awful! I’ve got a terrible headache!” His reaction was the last thing I expected.
Though obviously in a rush to get to an important meeting, he stopped dead in his tracks, turned around on his heels, and making sure he had steady eye contact with me, looked straight into my heart, and said, “Cindy, when people ask you how you’re doing you need to understand they really don’t care. If you’ve got a headache, take an aspirin.” And, with that, he turned around and briskly walked away.
As for me? I was left standing there feeling like I’d just been hit with a baseball bat. That said, it was one of the most powerful lessons of my life and all these many years later, it has served me well. It’s also probably one of the main reasons I remain hopelessly in love with my husband. To that end, let me take the story one step further.
After we’d married and while we were raising our children there was no such thing as whining, moaning and complaining in our home. From the cradle, we taught our children this axiom,
“No whining. No moaning. No complaining. And if you do, you better be bleeding … and you better be bleeding profusely.”
This rule for our lives made for a home that was pretty peaceful and zen-like. It also made for a life where there were no excuses, no places to hide, no way to get out of things based on the excuse, “I don’t feel good. I’ve got a headache” (or stomachache or earache or whatever the case may be). Our kids never even tried to use one of these excuses to get out of going to school. Never. Is it any wonder I love my husband the way I do? And our children? Oh my. Like me, they will love him and honor him all the days of their lives.
I share this story with you today in order to encourage you to take a very close look at the way you’re living your life. From personal relationships to professional relationships to how you communicate with yourself, are you whining, moaning and complaining? Are you making excuses for why you’re unable to get the work done that’s necessary to build a happy and successful life? Rather than getting up and taking an aspirin, is it easier to just sit around and make everyone miserable by complaining? The only person that can answer these questions are you.
A little later, when I get a chance, I’ll tell you another incredible story about the strength and wisdom that comes from making a decision to never complain. It’s about a remarkable young man who’s recently come into my life. Until then, watch the video I’ve attached to this lesson. You’ll never be the same. You’ll never complain. You’ll never make excuses. I promise.
Your Prodigal Daughter Come Home
(And, Boss, you are the light of my life, the wind beneath my wings, my knight in shining armor. You are the beginning and the end. My alpha my omega. The man of my dreams. And I shall love you beyond my last breath. Thank you for being the man behind the woman I am today. My life would not be worth living if not for you.)
With the exception of a few short years of my life, I’m naturally inclined to have a sunny disposition and a positive attitude. My beloved aunt reminded me of this recently when she recounted the first time she met me.
I was four years old and had lived in the Philippines until my [Kentucky born] father was able to get his young family transported to America via the USS Patrick. Back in Indiana, crossing each day off the calendar in anticipation of getting her hands on us, my father’s loving sister, my priceless Aunt Millie, was anxiously awaiting our arrival. The journey took three very long weeks.
My mother, who’d never been on a boat, suddenly found herself on a warship. My father had gone on ahead, leaving my seven months pregnant mother to travel with two little girls in tow, my sister, 16 months, and me. My only question is, “Who thought up THAT [travel] plan?!”
Not surprisingly Mom was sea sick the entire time it took us to sail from Manila to San Francisco. So sick, my little sister was confined to her crib for most of the day. With the lights out, Mom stayed in bed in our tiny cabin rolling over only to vomit in a bucket placed by her side. She couldn’t tolerate even the thought of eating let alone going to the mess hall so, each day, a kindly nurse brought a small amount of food to our cabin just to make sure my sister and I didn’t go hungry.
Under these circumstances, it was all my mother could do to keep the three of us clean and presentable. When I wasn’t emptying her bucket or fetching wet wash towels for her, I spent long periods of time outside our cabin on a walkway perched high above the water. Staring at the endless ocean through a [widely spaced] barrier fence I can remember thinking I could easily slip through and fall several stories to the water below. Imagine. An unattended four year old on a battleship filled with high slippery places, dangerous equipment, and who knows what kind of riffraff!
That said, it was 1961, and Mom never once worried about my safety. It was a day and age where it’s easy to believe I was surrounded, not by riffraff, but by a couple thousand American GI’s each playing Guardian Angel to a Little Girl. I was never afraid. Instead, I enjoyed the solitude. The wind. The warm sun on my face. I was happy. And, I never once got seasick.
After we arrived in San Francisco, we boarded a plane to Chicago, landing at O’Hare in the middle of a
terrible [late] February blizzard. This was especially exciting because my father, who had a habit of not thinking things through, had forgotten to tell my mother to make sure we had warm clothes for our winter arrival in Illinois. To that end, his three tropical island born women were dressed in sundresses and sandals when we stepped off the plane! I’ll never forget the beautiful woman who swept me up in her fur coat and carried me across the tarmac to the terminal. I learned early in my life that the kindness of strangers is life-giving and angels always appear precisely when you need them.
Within minutes of arriving in the terminal and in the hubbub of my parents being reunited, someone stole my mother’s purse and with it their life-savings of $500. I remember how sad I felt for ‘my mommy’ as I watched her cry and how harried my father looked as he worked to get a handle on getting her settled down.
Despite the theft, my mother’s tears, and the commotion, deep down inside I was abundantly happy. I was in America. The country my mother told me would bring us good fortune and a better life. Life couldn’t get any better than this. How could I not be happy?! Which brings me back to my beloved Aunt Millie.
We drove from Chicago to Lafayette, Indiana, where my Aunt Millie and Uncle Ernie lived with their four children in a beautiful old farm house on Old Romney Road and true to form, the instant I walked through the door, my aunt swept me into her arms, covered me with kisses and danced around the room. Happy tears flowed freely and there were warm hugs and lots of attention from my new found aunt, uncle and cousins alike.
Aunt Millie tells me that at that moment she was filled with all kinds of questions for me. She wanted to know everything about us and our life back in the Philippines but she especially wanted to know about our journey from Manila all the way to Indiana. She said the first thing I ever told her was, “Oh Aunt Millie! Everything about our trip was so wonderful! Everywhere we went! Even on the airplane! The beautiful stewardess was SO nice! She brought me a paper bag every time I needed to throw up!!!”
God bless my Aunt Millie. She loves children beyond measure, she has a memory that doesn’t quit and she’s a wonderful, wonderful story-teller. When telling this particular story her eyes always light up and she softly adds, “Of all the things you could have told me, Cynthie, you picked the story of how kind this stewardess was to you! Isn’t that something?! No matter what happens, you’ve always had a positive outlook on life! From the moment you were born … our Little Miss Sunshine. You have always been so very easy for us to love.”
Of all the Guardian Angels I’ve had in my life … my Aunt Millie has always been there for me and I attribute much of my wonderful life to her love and constant devotion throughout my formative years. She was (and still is) Christmas everyday and the simple thought of her turns my heart round and round and makes me want to dance.
Thank you, Aunt Millie, for being one of the greatest loves of my life. And, for reminding me that no matter how difficult life got I had the innate ability to see the good in all adversity and setbacks, to keep my chin up, to smile, and to see each and every silver lining in every dark cloud. Would that everyone could have an Aunt Millie all their own.
You are my Little Mrs. Sunshine. I love you! And I know, because of you, I came by my sunshine ways honestly. And, by the way, happy anniversary! I arrived in America and hopped into your arms 50 glorious years ago this very day. Let’s dance! xoxox.
I have been very lucky in love. It was no accident. It was a very determined choice on my part.
I met the love of my life, Bob Samuelson, just short of my 21st birthday. I fell hopelessly in love with him when I was 23. I married him when I was 25. Last year we celebrated our 28th wedding anniversary. Falling in love 30 years ago was a difficult journey for us because, sadly, we were married to different people at the time. The painful lessons learned from breaking up two homes are stories for another day. Today’s story is about making the decision to love and be loved.
I don’t know if every child fantasizes about what it means to fall in love. I know I did. I can remember being in first grade and having a crush on Thomas Addison, an adorable little boy at East Elementary in Brownsburg, Indiana. I wondered what it would be like to kiss him and be kissed (sweet little kisses on the cheek and maybe the lips but as a six year old I couldn’t imagine love being anything more intimate than this!). I imagined we’d live happily every after in our treehouse, holding hands and swinging on our swingset forever and ever. This, to me, was how love looked when I was six.
When I was 11, my father was very ill (with epilepsy) and he and my mother and two youngest siblings moved to Arizona to find a better life. In order to finish the school year, my sister Cheri, my brother Chip and I were staying with our Aunt Millie and Uncle Ernie in Lafayette, IN.
Oakland Elementary. 5th grade. And there he was. My next great love, Mark Carrel. In Mr. Johnson’s class. A more angelic boy you’d never seen. Three days my senior, I was crazy, crazy, crazy about him. I loved that he’d carry my books home every day. I wanted our walks to last forever.
We were so young, so innocent. I can remember our after school hours of playing hard kicking balls [or chasing fireflies] until we were called in for dinner. I’d think, “This must be what it means to be in love. Laughing and playing and walking home through life together.” Without so much as a hint of him even trying to steal a kiss, I loved Mark with all my heart.
Later that summer, I moved to Arizona to be with my family and Mark and I went on to become penpals. To this day, we still stay in touch and I still love him. I can only imagine what would have happened had I stayed in the ideallic hamlet of Lafayette… I undoubtedly would have ended up marrying that chivalrous boy next door … and we’d probably be chasing a whole collection of little fireflies of our own. (That said, Mark’s living happily ever after with the love of his life, Heather. They are a beautiful couple! Thank you, Mark, for being my friend nearly my entire life. You represent all that is good about childhood.)
From there my concepts of life and love became much more complicated. When I was 13 my father started showing the outward signs of being mentally unstable. Life became far more difficult and increasingly alarming for all of us. There was never any money. Dad couldn’t keep a job. He was angry all the time. And frightening to be around. For safety’s sake I knew better than to think of boys very much. I was far more interested in school and doing what was necessary in order to have a better life when I grew up.
The next love of my life came along when I was 16. Geno De Santa. A good Catholic boy. So sweet and brave and kind. That said, my father had already crossed the brink of insanity and he was more violent and brutal with each passing day. As the oldest, I was the one on the receiving end of the blunt force trauma. Geno, who came from a very loving family, attempted to protect me from my father but he was no physical match for a man who was possessed by powerful demonic forces. He was chased away by my father and as I watched him [reluctantly] leave, I felt as if my protector had been vanquished.
Geno holds a special place in my heart because during the time we cared for one another, I received the most brutal of three life-threatening beatings I would receive from my father. And it was during this particular beating that I made the decision that if I could make it out of my house (and childhood) alive, I would never ever be abused again. The precise moment the decision was made was one of my life-defining moments.
I was struck that it wasn’t made after the beating as one might expect. Nor was it made while I was licking my wounds over the next two weeks. It was made at the height of the beating with my back forced against the recliner and my father’s fist pummeling my face, loosening my teeth, blackening my eyes, bruising my body.
I am amazed that to this day I can remember the entire incident in stark detail but that I don’t remember the physical pain. I can only remember the calmness of my innerself. The 16 year old girl who was observing the incident in a-matter-of-fact sort of way. And all the while making a life defining decision, throughout the worse of the struggle, that would impact the rest of her life.
Afterwards, Geno and my two best girlfriends in high school (Mary McCabe and Pam Freund) held my hands while I healed from that beating. No criminal charges were filed against my father. No adults at my school said anything to me as I returned to school wearing dark sunglasses and sporting a black and blue body to match my blue and black uniform. It was 1973 and I guess people didn’t question how people treated their children. How far we’ve come since then.
Geno aside, a few months later, my father was in jail for committing a capital crime. Murder in the first degree. He was never a free man again. When he was convicted I said a silent prayer for it was then that I realized I was going to make it out of my house alive. I was 16 and free to choose a better life for myself. And I knew, for certain, that I would only choose to love men who loved me and cherished me and protected me. As a woman in her 50’s looking back on how her life has turned out, I realize being lucky in love didn’t happen by accident. It was a choice made for me by a 16 year old girl.
When I was a child, I loved as a child. But I loved wisely. And I am very blessed by my priceless childlike love relationships with both Mark and Geno.
As an adult, I’ve been deeply in love three times. All three are wonderful men. I married the best of them.
I share this story with you today for one reason. It makes me very sad to see people suffering so when it comes to unhealthy and toxic relationships. Especially when those relationships are do-it-to-yourself situations.
We have two choices in life. Healthy relationships or unhealthy ones. If you’re in a healthy relationship, I’m rejoicing with you. If it’s unhealthy, we can either say, “Because of my past, I am going to keep choosing bad relationships.” Or we can say, “If I can get out of this relationship alive, I will never EVER be involved in a bad relationship again! I choose to be honored, loved, cherished and protected. I will love deeply and be loved deeply in return.” It’s as simple as that.
As one adult speaking to another, I assure you, once the decision is made, you will find the world is full of people willing to love you on your terms. From experience, our world is filled with good and honorable men and women waiting to love and be loved. This 16 year old girl knows, first hand, that you can make a decision to choose wisely. Claim what is yours, and then make it happen.
The love of my life, Bob Samuelson. His love has made my life worth living. (Thank you, Darling, for being more wonderful than the dreams I dreamed as a child. And, thank you, too, for being the man I needed most to heal my heart and soul. As a woman, you are what love looks like to me. I love you. On purpose and by design.)
I know exactly when it happened, my love affair with laundry.
My children were little. Greg 4, Chelsea, new. As a stay-at-home mom, I was beginning to come to terms with the fact that I was being buried alive in mountains of dirty clothes. As I sat there folding a load of whites and lamenting my fate, I decided I could either love this job or hate it. With that, the next piece of clothing I picked up, a tiny white onesie, I kissed. I had no idea where the spontaneous idea came from, but I went with it. I’ve never been the same.
I went on to kiss every article of my family’s clothing that day. T-shirts. Jeans. Underwear. Pajamas. Socks. Everything. I kissed each piece deliberately and with full awareness of what I was doing. Holding everything up to my face. Breathing deeply. Kissing playfully. With genuine affection. Or deep tenderness. Each piece making its own impression as I thought about its important function in caring for my loved one. My heart was grateful and I felt blessed to be playing the role of wife and mother to this remarkable young family.
Years later, at an appreciation luncheon for the volunteers at my children’s school, I had the great fortune to sit at a table where a half-a-dozen young mother’s were commiserating about our exhausting lives. “Grocery shopping! Cleaning! Cooking! Chauffeuring! Homework! Scoutorama! Karate lessons! Brownie troupe meetings! Laundry! The list is too long and OMG, I’m too tired for sex!” You can hear it now can’t you? 🙂
Seated at our table was a lovely woman, a grandmother volunteer, who hadn’t said a word as she listened to our chatter. Finally, with a wisp of sadness flashing across her smiling face, she said, “Girls. Be grateful for all your exhausting days. One day you’ll wake up and all the hard work of raising your families will be over. You’ll find there is nothing sadder than when it takes two weeks to have enough dirty clothes to do one load of laundry. That day will come sooner than you think. Enjoy every minute of this time in your life. They are the best years of your life.”
Wow. A Zen moment.
Though I never remember seeing this woman around the children’s school campus again, her wise counsel strikes me as profoundly today as it did back them. And, for years, I’ve known without doubt, she was an angel sent to deliver a life-changing message.
It’s been 20 plus years since these two events. My children have long since left home. Life remains demanding as I care for my husband, my life, and my business. It still doesn’t take me two weeks to get a load of laundry together but, with the passing of years, I can now see how quickly 12 loads a week became three. And, in the autumn of my life, I can see [that sooner than I could ever imagine] these three loads will be a distant memory.
Today, Thursday, is laundry day. As closely as I paid attention to this labor of love [and worked to enjoy every minute of caring for my children’s cradle-to-college clothes], I’d do anything to be able to relive those finite hours of grocery shopping, cleaning, cooking, chauffeuring, homework, Scoutorama, karate lessons, Brownie troupe meetings, being too tired for sex, and folding and kissing all that laundry.
I’m probably older today than the grandmother who set me on the right road about enjoying the hard work of caring for my family so I feel comfortable in handing out some advice to all you younger householders. It might make a difference in the quality of the long life that lies before you.
If the exhaustion of caring for your family has you dreading the mundane chores of life (like going to work or picking up a mountain of toys at the end of a very long day or having to fill a babies prescription in the middle of the night), I encourage you to have a love affair similar to mine.
First, it doesn’t have to be with laundry. Choosing to love mowing the grass your children play on, or washing the car your wife drives, or running endless errands generated by your crew, is a wonderful alternative to feeling put out, overworked or under appreciated. Second, a day comes, much sooner than you think, when there won’t be a thing to hold tightly, to breathe in deeply, and to kiss tenderly. So mow and wash and cook and clean and fall into bed at night, completely spent, and, finally, hold on tight and kiss as if your life depends on it. Because, in truth, it does.
Chelsea at about the age I fell head over heels in love with laundry.
Twenty-four years later, my granddaughter, Sophie (at about the same age as Chelsea was when I fell for laundry) and, yes, I’ve kissed every single piece of her clothing that I’ve been privileged to wash.
Time passes quickly.
Choose your love affairs carefully.
Did I tell you I love laundry?
“Life well spent [doing laundry] is long.” ~ Leonardo Da Vinci
Recently I came across the most beautiful book dedication I’ve ever read. It’s from Bobbi Illing’s, Moments, and is made to her three grown children:
“And to my children, I want you to use up every ounce of love in your body before you die. I want you all to get up in the morning, devour your coffee with total enjoyment and start looking for a place to put your love. Do you have an elderly neighbor that would love a homemade pie … or a single mom, teach her son how to ride a bike. Love yourself enough to a keep a garden … even if it’s not a masterpiece, it’s your gift back to God. Never be without an animal, they show you joy and love wrapped in one hairy, bouncy wiggle. Always love each other. You were born together and you need to always keep the silver thread of family connected. Love each other’s spouses as your own. Work for each other and play together. Remember, their children are also your children. You were loved by a mother who was honored to be in your life.”
Though I find the whole dedication meaningful, I highlighted that which touched my heart the most profoundly. I was especially taken with her well chosen wording, silver thread of family. It made me weep as I reflected on how my mom did such an amazing job of keeping her five children together through the most difficult circumstances of life.
As siblings she made it clear from the cradle that we were born together and throughout our entire lives she expected us to love one another; to remain connected; to embrace each others spouses; to work for one another; to play together; and to love each others children as our own. I can’t imagine a mother instilling a better message into her children’s lives and psyches.
The five of us were born within seven years of each other. 1957, 59, 61, 62, 64. Tightly knit, for sure. Three girls, two boys. I’m the eldest. Cherisa and I, born in the Philippines; Chip conceived there, born in Chicago; Lisa and Clif, born in Indiana. Best friends through childhood we would willingly die for each other as adults.
I believe our relationship was forged in great part because we moved a lot when we were growing up (I’m not sure about my siblings but I know I went to 10 schools in 12 years!). Our father’s hot temper played a roll in his not being able to keep a job. Oftentimes it seemed we moved when the rent was due. As children we learned early we couldn’t count on were we’d be living in the morning but we could count on the fact that the five of us would be together. Life as rolling stones gave us the opportunity to become best friends and constant companions without a hint of jealousy, turmoil or anger. It’s a good thing because by the time I was 14, insanity ran rampant in our home and we’d be in dire need of each other in our lives.
Our father simply lost his mind. The combination of a bitter entitlement mentality (the world owed him something) and a long battle with epilepsy. I also don’t discount my belief that the pharmaceutical drugs he’d been taking to control his gran mal seizures weren’t partially to blame for his mental state. Without details, suffice it to say our days were filled with sheer madness. Ironically, the worse it got the more tenaciously my siblings and I clung to one another. No matter the tempest, we were each other’s shelter and safe harbor. In retrospect, we were keepers of each other’s sanity.
The day our father killed an innocent man remains difficult for me. It happened in the afternoon on a sweltering August day in 1973. Within minutes of the shooting well meaning family came to my mother’s rescue. Aunts, uncles, nephews, cousins. There was no shortage of those who were deeply concerned for us. Feeling life was going to be too hard for a (now) single mom with five children, each volunteered to take us and raise us. “We’ll take Cindy and Cheri.” “We’ll take Chip.” “We’ll take Lisa and Clif.” And they meant every word.
It all happened so quickly, none of us had time to think. One minute we were together and the next we were whisked off to different locations around the city. For the next few days, we walked around in mind-numbing silence. We could hear the adults talking amongst themselves [about our futures] but nothing was sinking in except for the idea that the five of us would be flung to the wind landing somewhere between the Grand Canyon and the Mississippi River. How could this be happening?!
One of my most treasured memories throughout those dark days happened three days after the tragedy. August 25, our mother’s 44th birthday. Mom pulled up outside the home where my sister and I were staying and knocked on the door. When our treasured cousin, Rick, answered, she told him how much she loved and appreciated him but that she’d come to take her daughters home. In her lovely Filipina
accent, she quietly said, “No matter what, my children belong together. No one will be better to them than they’ll be to each other. It would be a terrible thing to split them up.” She uttered these words with absolute conviction.
As Cheri and I climbed into the car, our little brothers and sister were waiting for us. Out of sheer joy we wept and clung to each other. For me, as the oldest, it was especially heart-wrenching and I couldn’t help but feel the deepest sense of gratitude for how strong my mother had become under the circumstances. And, though I can’t speak for my siblings, I can barely put into words how much I love our mother for doing the right thing by us.
As children we weathered things no children should ever endure … but life isn’t fair and we must all learn to play the hand we’re dealt. The circumstances of our life caused much heartache and pain, not only to our family but to the families our father harmed. But somehow, through it all, we carried the burden together. With little to laugh about, we found ways to laugh. We stood together. We cared for one another. And, as we all began to make our way into the world, leaving home one by one, we cheered each other on and prayed for each others successes and happiness.
Would that all children emerging from traumatic childhoods could share this “you were born together, love each other” philosophy instilled in us by our mother. Thank you Bobbi Illing for putting into words what my mother lived and breathed.
This is the last portrait of the five of us together. Taken in 1991, our youngest brother, Clif, died just a few years later from liver and pancreatic cancer. Though we remain heartbroken by his death, the silver thread of his life is woven throughout each day of ours (we’re especially grateful Lisa and her husband named their son after him).
A favorite picture from a recent family gathering. Our beloved mother, Corazon de Jesus (Heart of Jesus), is between us. We’re only missing our sister, Cheri, who lives in New Jersey and can’t make it to near enough family gatherings. We love you, Sis!
In the years since we all left home, there have only been a handful of issues that have divided us. None so serious that they could keep us apart for very long. I’ve certainly learned the value of family can never be under estimated and is infinitely more priceless than one can imagine. To me, my family has always been the silver lining behind every dark cloud. The hope that tomorrow will be a better day. And, as I enter the autumn of my life, they become more important to me than ever before.
With that in mind, how’s your family? If your relationship with them is wonderful, I’m rejoicing with you. If it needs some work, I encourage you to not delay. Pick up the phone. Bury all the worthless hatchets. Make peace … and do whatever it takes to pick up the silver thread that weaves together the rich tapestry of your lives. You were born together and you might as well use up every ounce of love in your body [on each other] before you die.
And, Mom, you are loved by a daughter who is honored to be in your life. If we are the silver threads of your life, you are the spun gold of ours. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.